Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the whole earth was of one language. The descendants of Noah,
united by the strong bond of a common language, had not separated, and
notwithstanding the divine command to replenish the earth, were
unwilling to separate. The more pious and well-disposed would of course
obey the divine will; but a numerous body, seemingly the aggressive
determined to please themselves by occupying the fairest region they
2. land of Shinar--The fertile valley watered by the Euphrates
and Tigris was chosen as the center of their union and the seat of
3. brick--There being no stone in that quarter, brick is, and
was, the only material used for building, as appears in the mass of
ruins which at the Birs Nimroud may have been the very town formed by
those ancient rebels. Some of these are sun-dried--others burnt in the
kiln and of different colors.
slime--bitumen, a mineral pitch, which, when hardened, forms a
strong cement, commonly used in Assyria to this day, and forming the
mortar found on the burnt brick remains of antiquity.
4. a tower whose top may reach unto heaven--a common figurative
expression for great height
(De 1:28; 9:1-6).
lest we be scattered--To build a city and a town was no crime;
but to do this to defeat the counsels of heaven by attempting to
prevent emigration was foolish, wicked, and justly offensive to
6. and now nothing will be restrained from them--an apparent
admission that the design was practicable, and would have been executed
but for the divine interposition.
7. confound their language--literally, "their lip"; it was a
failure in utterance, occasioning a difference in dialect which was
intelligible only to those of the same tribe. Thus easily by God their
purpose was defeated, and they were compelled to the dispersion they
had combined to prevent. It is only from the Scriptures we learn the
true origin of the different nations and languages of the world. By one
miracle of tongues men were dispersed and gradually fell from true
religion. By another, national barriers were broken down--that all men
might be brought back to the family of God.
28. Ur--now Orfa; that is, "light," or "fire." Its name probably
derived from its being devoted to the rites of fire-worship. Terah and
his family were equally infected with that idolatry as the rest of the
31. Sarai his daughter-in-law--the same as Iscah
granddaughter of Terah, probably by a second wife, and by early usages
considered marriageable to her uncle, Abraham.
they came unto Haran--two days' journey south-southeast from Ur,
on the direct road to the ford of the Euphrates at Rakka, the nearest
and most convenient route to Palestine.